Heavyweight slugfest?

According to the Tide coaches, the Razorback's offensive line will be the best unit Bama has faced all year--and definitely the biggest. <br><br>After watching them on film, defensive tackle Ahmad Childress agrees.

"They're very good," Childress said. "If you stand up as a defensive lineman and get too high, they'll knock you down.

Football athletes have been getting bigger every year for decades now, but according to Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines, this Arkansas offensive line has really taken their pig nickname to heart.

Ahmad Childress pursues to make the tackle. (Barry Fikes photo)

"Their tight end is 320 pounds; their tackle is close to 380; and their guard looks like he weighs 350," Kines said, shaking his head. "What they do to defenses is not pretty. They just get pad against pad and walk you off the line of scrimmage."

Kines may have been exaggerating a little bit, but not much. Hog tight end Jason Peters is listed in the program at 320 pounds, and while right tackle Shawn Andrews is only "officially" 353, his actual weight has been much higher.

"They're not only big, but they're talented," Kines continued. "Their coaches have got them doing what they do well. They'll be the best offensive line we've faced this year. They're strong and physical.

"We can't miss any tackles, or it will be a long day for us."

At 6-6, 331 pounds, Childress brings his share of bulk to the table. But he knows the Razorback O-Line will be a challenge. "Playing against guys that big, everybody has got to stay low," Childress said. "We've got to play them physical."

"This won't be a sparring match," Kines added. "This will be toe-to-toe, a heavyweight slugfest."

After losing at home last week to little-known Northern Illinois, Childress sees Saturday as a "get back game," a chance for Alabama to regain some lost respect nationwide. He commented, "This will be a real big game for us. I think a lot of teams have lost some respect for us. Before teams would fear us, but it's probably not that way anymore."

Starting for most of the season at defensive tackle, Childress has totaled 12 tackles (three for a loss), one sack, one pass breakup and two quarterback hurries. But according to Kines, those numbers don't really reflect the big man's importance to the team.

Childress holds court with the media. Since last spring he has probably been Bama's most productive defensive tackle.

"In most schemes your interior guys will get double-teamed a lot," Kines explained. "That hopefully will free up your linebackers to make plays and get a lot of tackles. Scheme-wise we could do some things to get (Ahmad) freed up, but double-teams are just part of being an inside guy."

Before the season Alabama's coaches talked about playing as many as five defensive tackles per game, but so far the number has been barely more than three. For example last week Childress played 50 of Bama's 68 defensive snaps.

Is the workload wearing him down?

"We felt a little fatigue there at the end," Childress acknowledged, "but not that much. Our coaches have worked hard with us to get us in shape. Coach (Ben Pollard) worked real hard with us, so we were prepared. It wasn't too bad."

Once again during Tuesday's press conference the Tide coaches talked about playing more athletes on game day. "We definitely need to build more depth on the defensive line," Kines said. "We have got to get more young guys in the game."

With the heart of Alabama's conference schedule starting, Childress talked about rotating defensive linemen. "It's very important," he said. "You've got to stop the run late in the game, and you can't get worn out. On the defensive line you've got to run all over the field, and playing extra guys keeps you from getting tired. Plus, having different guys in there can throw off the offensive line."

For the first three games redshirt freshman Jeremy Clark was Bama's third tackle, getting extensive playing time in the rotation with Childress and Anthony Bryant. Against Kentucky Clark injured an ankle, and sophomore Taylor Britt got in some snaps. Last Saturday redshirt freshman Kyle Tatum was in on 17 plays versus Northern Illinois.

Childress (#95) at the bottom of the pile versus Oklahoma. (Barry Fikes photo)

"They're all young, but they've played pretty well," Childress said of Bama's D-Tackle reserves. "They've still got a lot of things to learn. Anthony and I are trying to teach them, but they're playing good ball. They're young, but they've come a long way since the start of fall camp."

Saturday's 3-point loss to Northern Illinois was especially frustrating for Childress. By his own account, on several different occasions he was in the backfield in position to tackle Husky tailback Michael Turner, only to let him slip away free. "We missed a lot of tackles," Childress said. "Things were just off a little bit (last Saturday). It got frustrating at times. Now we've just got to play football. We've got to prepare better this week."

Arkansas and its mammoth offensive line looms large, giving Childress and his teammates no choice but to move forward. "After the game was over Sunday we talked about how everybody has got to stay together," Childress recalled. "I think we can come together and be even stronger."


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